Written by ULy, photos and videos by Nguyen Duc Tung for Hanoi Grapevine
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The Sun Symphony Orchestra was a mystery to Hanoi Grapevine, until we had a chance to attend two concerts on Feb 16 and Feb 22, 2019. What we experienced was more than we expected.
The Sun Symphony Orchestra (SSO) was established in 2017 by Sun Group, a Vietnamese company that specializes in travel & leisure, recreation & entertainment, and high-end real estate. This is the only privately-owned symphony orchestra in Vietnam, and is comprised of an impressive team lead by French music director, Olivier Ochanine – first prize winner of Antal Dorati International Conductor Competition in Budapest, Hungary (2015) and includes national and international musicians. Hanoi Grapevine was impressed by their professionalism and energy.
What we really appreciated were the pre-concert conversations with the audience; a quite uncommon event when compared to other concerts. Maestro Olivier had a courteous manner yet was not distant, but on the contrary, very cordial. He told the audience: “Classical music is not something reserved for the rich or the elite, but for everyone. To enjoy, you can close your eyes, or watch the musicians, and live wholeheartedly in the music – but with the phone turned off.” The conductor then turned his attention to the guest artist and briefly introduced the context of the composition and the composer. He also described the spirit of the music and assured the audience not to be worried about not understanding this so called “highbrow” music.
The selection of compositions was also very interesting. On the evening of 16 Feb, at the chamber concert, the audience enjoyed two well-known works, Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Felix Mendelssohn’s Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. The big concert taking place at Hanoi Opera House was themed “Vu dieu Mat troi” (Dance of the Sun), resembling a journey to different cultures through music pieces inspired by folk dance. The program included works by composers of different time periods; Melody and Dance of the Sun by Grigor Arkelian (Armenian, born 1963), Slavonic Dances op.46 by Dvorak (Czech, 1891 – 1904), 4 Norwegian Dances op.35 by Edvard Grieg (Norwegian, 1843 – 1907), and Hungarian Dance no.5 – Brahms (German, 1833 – 1897).
At both concerts, the energy of the conductor and the orchestra was always at a high level. With each show lasting no less than two hours, the ensemble’s ability to maintain a positive energy helped create an exciting atmosphere and grasp the audience’s attention from the beginning to the end. If not for the passion on the faces of the musicians and conductor, as well as the seamless coordination of the instruments, it might not have been easy for the audience to focus on the complex music. But the SSO satisfied their audience very well.
The two talented violin soloists from the two concerts were concertmaster Hojin Kim (16 Feb), with independence and intensity in her performance; and Keiko Urushihara, special guest performer on 22 Feb, who performed Mendelssohn’s famous violin concerto with all her heart. After that, together with the conductor and the orchestra, she generously gave the audience an encore before the interval. While playing, a hair on her violin bow broke, she took time between breaks to stretch her fingers, and sooth her chin where it rests on the violin with the back of her hand, but that did not diminish any of the beauty and sentimentality of the work. The musicians in the wind and the brass sections on the 22 Feb concert were also very confident and left a good impression on the audience.
Video clip of Keiko Urushihara performing with Sun Symphony Orchestra, recorded by Nguyen Duc Tung
After the two shows, the indelible impressions made were the conversations with the audience, the grace and enthusiasm of the conductor, and most of all, the wholehearted dedication of the orchestra. The orchestra performed three (not just one or two) more encores on the night of 22 Feb in response to the audience’s tireless applause. The concerts ended gloriously with the night air filled with music./